About this Author
DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

Chemistry and Drug Data: Drugbank
Chempedia Lab
Synthetic Pages
Organic Chemistry Portal
Not Voodoo

Chemistry and Pharma Blogs:
Org Prep Daily
The Haystack
A New Merck, Reviewed
Liberal Arts Chemistry
Electron Pusher
All Things Metathesis
C&E News Blogs
Chemiotics II
Chemical Space
Noel O'Blog
In Vivo Blog
Terra Sigilatta
BBSRC/Douglas Kell
Realizations in Biostatistics
ChemSpider Blog
Organic Chem - Education & Industry
Pharma Strategy Blog
No Name No Slogan
Practical Fragments
The Curious Wavefunction
Natural Product Man
Fragment Literature
Chemistry World Blog
Synthetic Nature
Chemistry Blog
Synthesizing Ideas
Eye on FDA
Chemical Forums
Symyx Blog
Sceptical Chymist
Lamentations on Chemistry
Computational Organic Chemistry
Mining Drugs
Henry Rzepa

Science Blogs and News:
Bad Science
The Loom
Uncertain Principles
Fierce Biotech
Blogs for Industry
Omics! Omics!
Young Female Scientist
Notional Slurry
Nobel Intent
SciTech Daily
Science Blog
Gene Expression (I)
Gene Expression (II)
Adventures in Ethics and Science
Transterrestrial Musings
Slashdot Science
Cosmic Variance
Biology News Net

Medical Blogs
DB's Medical Rants
Science-Based Medicine
Respectful Insolence
Diabetes Mine

Economics and Business
Marginal Revolution
The Volokh Conspiracy
Knowledge Problem

Politics / Current Events
Virginia Postrel
Belmont Club
Mickey Kaus

Belles Lettres
Uncouth Reflections
Arts and Letters Daily
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

In the Pipeline

« How Not to Do It: Chromium Trioxide | Main | Pfizer Slowly Shrinks in Groton »

February 12, 2013

The European Lead Factory

Email This Entry

Posted by Derek

That's what they're calling this new initiative, so points for bravery. I wrote about this proposal here last year, and now more details have emerged. The good news is that the former Merck facilities (well, Organon via Schering-Plough) in Newhouse (Scotland) and Oss (the Netherlands) will be part of the effort, so those will be put to some good use.

". . . the consortium consists of 30 academic and corporate partners, and aims to fill company pipelines with promising drug candidates. . .the initiative will build and curate a collection of 500,000 molecules for screening, 300,000 of which will come from the seven large pharmaceutical partners. The rest (are) intended to cover classes of biologically active molecule that are poorly represented in current libraries. . .Starting this July or August, the pharmaceutical partners will be able to use the library — including molecules from their competitors — in their own drug screens. Any academic group or company can also propose assays to test molecules in the library for biological activity."

Interestingly, both the compounds and the assay results will be proprietary (first refusal) for the people/organizations requesting them. The plan is for the whole thing to pay for itself through milestone payments and screening-for-hire for groups that are not part of the consortium. That's a worthy goal, but it's going to be complicated. One thing you can bet on is that the compounds in the collection themselves will not be the eventual ones that head to the clinic, so you get a "ship of Theseus" problem when you try to decide what belongs to whom (and at what point it started belonging). Note that the NIH's Molecular Libraries Program, by contrast, is made up of nonproprietary compounds, which were always assumed to be just starting points. (It's been having its own problems, too - many of the starting-point compounds, it seems, were - at least at first - probably never going to be starting points for anyone, so there still will not have been a clean head-to-head comparison between these two models).

And that brings up another difficulty with figuring out how things are going. I can certainly see why the results from the ELF will be proprietary, but that means that it may be some time before we can figure out whether it's providing anything worthwhile. The people running it will presumably have a better view.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Drug Assays


1. Pete on February 12, 2013 10:58 AM writes...

Will they have shiny new headquarters in Brussels and ten volumes of regulations about what one is allowed to call a lead?

Permalink to Comment

2. a. nonymaus on February 12, 2013 11:15 AM writes...

When reading the headline I first thought it was about some factory in Europe pumping out an element adjacent to Bismuth.

Permalink to Comment

3. Heavy on February 12, 2013 11:40 AM writes...

@2 a nonymaus: I thought the same thing. That'll go over like a lead balloon. The best leads never float to the top. It's all just dead weight anyway.

On the other hand, you should never have trouble finding a pencil at the European Lead Factory.

Permalink to Comment

4. Chris Swain on February 12, 2013 1:00 PM writes...

I work with a number of academic and small pharma groups and one of the significant stumbling blocks is getting good leads. There are a number of HTS options available but they are expensive and to be honest I've not been over impressed with some of the "hits" that have been identified.
The success will depend on the quality of the sample collection and how onerous the financial terms are, but I wish them every success.

Permalink to Comment

5. Teddy Z on February 12, 2013 2:06 PM writes...

I agree with #2 and #4. Depending on what is in the library, this is either going to be wildly successful, or a joke. I am leaning towards the latter.

Permalink to Comment

6. TFox on February 12, 2013 3:15 PM writes...

I can't read the word "leads" without Glengarry Glen Ross going through my head. "Mitch and Murray paid good money for these leads. Get their names to sell them. You can't close the leads you're given, you can't close sh-t, *you are* sh-t, hit the bricks pal, and beat it, 'cause you are going *out*. -- The leads are weak. -- 'The leads are weak.' The f-cking leads are weak? You're weak. I've been in this business fifteen years..."

Permalink to Comment

7. Only to be applauded on February 12, 2013 5:33 PM writes...

Bringing a mothballed site back into operation, keeping good scientists gainfully employed, helping define new ways of working. Whats not ot like, all the best guys!!!!

Permalink to Comment

8. Frequent hitter on February 12, 2013 5:45 PM writes...

Agree with no. 4. What is available from various CRO's and other accessible compound collections is not too clever. Great if you like Fsp3=0, anilines, furans and redox compounds.

Permalink to Comment


Remember Me?


Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):

The Last Post
The GSK Layoffs Continue, By Proxy
The Move is Nigh
Another Alzheimer's IPO
Cutbacks at C&E News
Sanofi Pays to Get Back Into Oncology
An Irresponsible Statement About Curing Cancer
Oliver Sacks on Turning Back to Chemistry